Having joined the 80 million other Americans to get hit with a variant of the coronavirus, I’ve spent the first three days of this week in more-or-less quarantine, working from one of Federal News Network’s remote bureaus. Namely, my daughter’s former bedroom. With some investment from the station’s owners, I converted it into a not-half-bad recording studio. That was two years ago.
But I’ve used it only about two or three full days during the entire pandemic, and only when I’ve had a light schedule. One of the days was a snow day, but of course the power went out. Having no confidence for when Pepco would restore it, I drove through the snow to our main studios anyway.
After three days, I’m more than ready to get back to my regular studio at our elegant Chevy Chase, Maryland offices. Monday morning I made a $20 investment in a green backdrop — delivered that day — for a couple of command performance Zoom interviews.
Yesterday was my first day back up and out. Now, I’ve got a few advantages that mitigate towards an in-office preference. I go to work very early, before rush hour, and on a short route, about 11 miles. Plus, I have my own “booth” — the radio word for an enclosed mini studio. Mine’s about 10 x 10 with counter space and cabinets. I like it in there. When it’s time to tape an interview, I just close the soundproof door to the rest of the newsroom.
By contrast, at a conference yesterday where I spent a couple of hours, I spoke with a lady who’s a union president and knowledge worker for a very large bureau in a very large agency. She has, or had, a 37-mile commute that included some of the region’s most notorious roads. She’s glad to never have to go back to the office.
But here’s what I didn’t like about teleworking:
The silence of the house. I guess looking out the upstairs window, you could call it the silence of the jambs. There’s no one around. I see neighbor after neighbor in yoga pants walking an inconceivable variety of dogs. By contrast, in our offices, while I work in a soundproof booth, most of the time the door is open. I hear the back-and-forth of the Federal News Network and WTOP people doing their thing. There’s humanity.
The distractions. My wife and I agreed to look after a neighbor’s 14-year-old golden retriever for a few days. I didn’t walk her (the retriever), and certainly not in yoga pants. For a while the old pooch settled on the floor of my home studio, and it was hard to resist scratching her behind the ears. Then the Postal truck stopped by. Then an Amazon delivery with my green cloth. I need to wind the grandfather clock. Oh, I’ll sit at the piano on the way past the living room and do a little Mozart to help me think. Think I’ll take out today’s recycling. Just a few lines of the crossword puzzle. My motorcycle windshield looks dirty. Oooh, that whistling: My wife is making tea, I’ll have a cup. Shoot, it’s 4 p.m. already?
The ergonomics. Nothing feels quite right at the home studio. I keep twisting the wrong knob on the mixer. There’s not quite enough screen real estate. Why doesn’t the plastic floor mat stay put? My at-the-office booth was all equipped and installed by a special radio station contractor and feels like it.
Listen, if teleworking is for you, it’s for you. Mazel tov; enjoy. Me? Like the retriever snuffling on the floor next to me, this old dog isn’t up to the new tricks.